teaching teens healthy relationships

Teaching Teens About Healthy Relationships

For teens, a first relationship is exciting. However, a lack of experience in the love department can mean disappointment, broken hearts and even abuse. As a parent, teaching your child about healthy relationships is a good step to prepare them for the future. It’s never too early to talk about it.

Begin by asking questions to learn about what your teen already knows or thinks about relationships, such as “Are any of your friends dating? What would you want a boyfriend/girlfriend to be like?”

Discuss the elements of a healthy relationship:

Freedom to Be Yourself

Tell your teen that they should feel comfortable expressing who they are. This means spending time with the people they like, dressing however makes them feel good, and participating in the activities that make them happy.

Mutual Respect

Both people in the partnership should speak to each other respectfully. Partners should avoid put-downs, even in the heat of a disagreement.

Limited Jealousy

While the green-eyed monster is sometimes mistaken for caring, a good partner doesn’t make their partner feel guilty for spending time with family or friends instead of them.


In a healthy relationship, partners offer a listening ear and encouragement for their significant other’s ideas and aspirations. In bad times, a partner can be the one to turn to for comfort.


While sharing can be a good thing between a couple, being someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t require a person to open up every aspect of their life. Partners are still allowed their privacy, which includes text messages, computer passwords, etc.


Setting boundaries is an important part of any relationship. A couple should talk about what they’re comfortable with — how often will they see each other, how far do they want to go physically, etc.


Trust and honesty are key foundations to a healthy relationship. Both partners should be able to talk about feelings openly without fearing negative consequences. Partners should be able to discuss serious matters face-to-face, and find the right time to do so. Compromise is necessary in a healthy relationship.

By starting a conversation about healthy dating with your children now, they are more likely to feel comfortable coming to you in the future when they need to talk. If you suspect that your teen may currently be experiencing dating abuse in their relationship, read about how you can help and resources you can pass along.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

In a Washington Post article from early February, the authors (two state attorneys) describe children who are exposed to incidents of domestic violence as the “invisible victims.” They write:

As prosecutors, we have long noted with distress how often children are present when violent crimes are committed. Kids don’t need to be the target of the violence to be scarred by it. Ask any adult who witnessed domestic violence while growing up; decades later, he or she will still be able to talk vividly of the event and how it affects them today.”

Domestic abuse affects everyone — family, friends, and even the community. As highlighted in the Post article, children often are affected if they are living in a space where this is taking place. They become the ‘secondary’ victims of the abuse, whether it’s emotional, physical or sexual, and whether it takes place constantly or in isolated incidents.

Here are some interesting facts about children and domestic violence:

  • Over half of female domestic violence victims live in households withchildren under the age of 12.
  • Research indicates that up to 90 percent of children living in homes where there is domestic violence know what is going on.
  • In a study of more than 6,000 families in the United States, it was reported that half of the men who physically abused their wives also abused their children. Also, older children are frequently assaulted when they interfere to defend or protect the victim.
  • A child’s exposure to domestic violence is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.
  • Childhood abuse and trauma has a high correlation to both emotional and physical problems in adulthood, including tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression and a higher risk for unintended pregnancy.

How Can I Help

One resource for learning how to assist children in these situations is Lundy Bancroft’s “Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse,” in which he shares ways parents can encourage their children to cope, heal and talk about the abuse they’ve seen.

If your child is witnessing abuse in your home, what you’re experiencing is likely made even worse by the worry and concern you feel for your child. It’s important to remember that both you and your children’s needs are important.

Have conversations. Let children know that it’s okay to talk about what has happened. Stress that abuse is wrong, but avoid criticizing the abuser if they are a parent or parent-figure to the child.

Remind your kids that the abuse is never their fault. Make sure that they know that you care about them. Children are extremely resilient, and while the impact of abuse can be long lasting, knowing that they have someone to depend on that loves them will help them heal.

Above all, proceed with caution and listen to your instincts. Tap into what you feel is best for both you and your child. There are often pros and cons of either staying with or leaving an abusive partner. It can be a dangerous situation either way. If you do decide to leave your relationship, consider when and how to best leave. Allow children to be open about their feelings in the process, and devise a safety plan (whether staying or leaving).

Call The Hotline toll free, 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for more information about what you can do.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Dating Abuse Resources for Teens

As any parent knows, it can be difficult to communicate with your teen, especially when it comes to a sensitive topic like dating violence. Perhaps you’re not quite sure what to say, or maybe your teen doesn’t seem to want to talk.

Whatever stage you and your teen are going through in discussing and learning about dating violence — whether you want to teach them about healthy relationships for the future, or you’re concerned with a relationship they are currently in and want to give them advice — there are plenty of resources that can be really helpful.

From phone numbers and victim services centers, to online pamphlets and sites, we’ve put together a list of some of the best resources for teens. Share them with your teen and look at them together, or simply pass them on.

Who to Call

  • National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 77054. Call or text with peer advocates, or contact them using this confidential online form or Live Chat

What to Read

Online Interactive

Spread the Knowledge

Other Organizations

  • loveisrespect: Advice and info on healthy dating, to empower youth and young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships. loveisrespect is connected with The National Dating Abuse Helpline, which can be reached 24/7 via call or text (See: Who to Call)
  • Boys Town: Boys Town works to reunite children with their families when possible, or give them the skills and foundation needed to build a life on their own. They strive to help every child, “from those who may simply be struggling or in doubt to those who are in need of the most severe behavioral care”
  • National Runaway Safeline: If you’re thinking about leaving home, or you have and are seeking information and help, the Safeline is one of the top resources for runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth and their families
  • Trevor Project: The national crisis lifeline for LGBTQ teens and adults. They have suicide prevention services for youth in digital spaces, counseling via IM, and a large online social network for LGBTQ people
  • 1 is 2 many: Launched by Vice President Joe Biden, this initiative uses technology and outreach to spread knowledge about dating violence and sexual assault among teens and young adults
  • TeenWire: In addition to information about healthy and unhealthy relationships, TeenWire has resources about everything from body image to sexual health
  • ShowMeLoveDC: A campaign to raise awareness about healthy relationships and provide resources for LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence
  • Northwest Network: A network founded by and for LGBTQ survivors, focused on safety, support, and empowerment
  • The Anti-Violence Project: AVP offers free and confidential assistance to thousands of LGBTQ people each year in all five boroughs of New York City
  • A Thin Line: An MTV campaign created to empower teens to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse

Brand New Partnership With Ulla Popken, Plus-Sized Clothing Designer

The Hotline is excited to announce our partnership with Ulla Popken, an online retailer with clothes exclusively designed for the plus-size woman.  This small but growing company has a big heart and has partnered with us to bring awareness about domestic violence to their customers. The Ulla Popken website has information on domestic violence and the services offered by The Hotline. They also include a personal story of one of our Hotline advocates and her own experience with domestic violence.

Ulla Popken is not only bringing awareness to this issue, they are also helping The Hotline by donating a portion of the sales from two new empowering message bracelets. The bracelets can be found on their site and $3 from each bracelet will go to The Hotline to allow us to continue to answer calls for help from victims of domestic violence.

As Ulla Popken’s President Phyliss Mosca says, “Feeling beautiful is certainly empowering but giving back and helping others is the absolute best feeling in the world.”

Thank you to Ulla Popken for showing leadership in speaking out against domestic violence and helping those affected by it find help to lead a life safe from violence.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Is Your Teenage Child Being Abused? Here’s How to Help

It can be scary to suspect that your teen might be in an abusive relationship. As a parent, your instinct is to help your child in whatever way you can. This need to help can drive you to quickly react, but sometimes what feels like the right plan of action could stop the conversation before it begins. Here are some tips to keep in mind when trying to help a child who is experiencing abuse.

Listen and Give Support
When talking to your teen, be supportive and non-accusatory. If they do open up, it’s important to be a good listener. Your child may feel ashamed of what’s happening in their relationship. Many teens fear that their parents may overreact, blame them or be disappointed. Others worry that parents won’t believe them or understand. If they do come to you to talk, let it be on their terms, and meet them with understanding, not judgment.

Accept What Your Child is Telling You
Believe that they are being truthful. Showing skepticism could make your teen hesitant to tell you when things are wrong and drive them closer to their abuser. Offer your unconditional support and make sure that they know that you believe that they are giving an accurate account of what is happening.

Show Concern
Let your teen know that you are concerned for their safety by saying things like: “You don’t deserve to be treated like this;” “You deserve to be in a relationship where you are treated with respect” and “This is not your fault.”

Talk About the Behaviors, Not the Person
When talking about the abuse, speak about the behaviors you don’t like, not the person. For example, instead of saying, “She is controlling” you could say, “I don’t like that she texts you to see where you are.” Remember that there still may be love in the relationship — respect your child’s feelings. Also, talking badly about your son or daughter’s partner could discourage your teen from asking for your help in the future.

Avoid Ultimatums
Resist the urge to give an ultimatum (for example, “If you don’t break up with them right away, you’re grounded/you won’t be allowed to date anyone in the future.”) You want your child to truly be ready to walk away from the relationship. If you force the decision, they may be tempted to return to their abusive partner because of unresolved feelings. Also, leaving is the most dangerous time for victims. Trust that the teen knows their situation better than you do and will leave when they’re ready.

Be Prepared
Educate yourself on dating abuse. Help your child identify the unhealthy behaviors and patterns in their relationship. Discuss what makes a relationship healthy. With your teen, identify relationships around you (within your family, friend group or community) that are healthy and discuss what makes those relationships good for both partners.

Decide on Next Steps Together
When you’re talking to your teen about a plan of action, know that the decision has to come from them. Ask what ‘next steps’ they would like to take. If they’re uncomfortable discussing this with you, help them find additional support. Suggest The National Dating Abuse Helpline, which offers a phone line, online chat and text messaging service where teens can talk with peer advocates 24/7. To call, dial 1-866-331-9474, to chat, visit loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522.

You can also call us at The Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). We can help you create a safety plan on their behalf, locate domestic violence services, and provide you with more information on the best way to help your teen.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

How To Recognize If Your Child Is In An Abusive Relationship

As a parent, your first and foremost concern is the safety of your children. You want to protect them and ensure that they are safe. You watch out for injuries, failure and heartbreak. But what if you suspect that they are being harmed by someone they love? How can you tell if your child is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship?

Relationships exist on a spectrum, so sometimes it can be difficult to tell what behavior is just unhealthy from behavior that is abusive. Each relationship is different and the people in it define what is acceptable for them, so what’s never OK for you might be alright for someone else.

If you’re concerned that your child is being abused by their boyfriend or girlfriend, you may notice that their boyfriend or girlfriend does some of the following things:

  • Checks their phone, email or social networking sites often and without permission
  • Calls them names or demeans them
  • Isolates them from family and friends
  • Checks up on them with constant calls and texts
  • Is extremely jealous when they spend time with other people
  • Does not allow them to work or have access to funds
  • Withholds affection as punishment or manipulation
  • Has violent outbursts that are mostly directed at your child
  • Threatens to hurt your child, their children, you or your extended family in any way
  • Has physically harmed them

If you notice any of these characteristics are present in your child’s partner or relationship, you should make an attempt to speak to them about what might be happening. Be supportive of them and their decisions, but explain to them that you’ve noticed some questionable behaviors and are concerned for their safety. Knowing that they are supported can mean the world to them.

If someone you care about is being abused, we can help you decide your best course of action. Give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE any time to speak with an advocate.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Celebrate Healthy Relationships This Valentine’s Day

On the surface, the focus of Valentine’s Day seems to be teddy bears and gifts but the deeper meaning of the day lies in relationships — the one you have with yourself and those you have with others. Today, take time to reflect on the different people in your life and your relationships with them. Are you being an active participant in all of your relationships? A good friend, parent or partner?

This Valentine’s Day, celebrate the healthy relationships in your life by realizing what makes them great and by thinking of ways you could make them even better. Here are some ideas for how to deepen the bonds you share with your loved ones.

For your friends:
Are your friendships two-sided, with each of you giving the other support? Take time today to make sure you’re being the best friend you can be. Be there for your buddies in a way that’s focused on them. Practice “active listening”  by using clarifying phrases to make sure you know what they are saying. For example,”What I’m hearing you say is _______. Is that right?”  Use eye contact during a conversation. Don’t assume anything, and don’t spend time planning what you’ll say next instead of listening to what they’re saying now.

For you:
There’s no better time to focus on self-care than this Valentine’s Day. Give yourself the gift of paying a little more attention to #1 today (yes, that’s you!). By working on having a strong, healthy relationship with yourself, you’ll be better equipped to thrive in healthy relationships with friends and loved ones.

If you are a survivor of an abusive relationship and today is a difficult time for you, make sure to focus on your well-being and try to steer clear of things that will remind you of an ex, like the place you always went to dinner together, or a song you both loved.  If you’re worried that you might be tempted to your ex, schedule activities with friends to keep you busy and have people you can call. Don’t forget that we’re available at The Hotline, toll free, and 24/7. Call us at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).

For your community:
February is a great time to give back in some way to your community, because it’s National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. One of the best ways to get the word out is to talk to the schools in your community — attend a PTA meeting and bring handouts for example. Download the teenDVmonth Toolkit which includes pledges, “how to” guides, prep manuals and more.

For your children:
In fostering a healthy relationship with your children, communication and dialogue are key. Take today to talk about healthy dating with your children and the young people in your life. Explain to them that in a healthy relationship, both partners feel free to be themselves and set the boundaries they want. Partners should respect these boundaries and be supportive of each others differences. Stress the importance of communication — and let it begin with this conversation between the two of you. If they want to text or talk on the phone to an advocate their own age, they can call the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 77054.

For your partner:
Healthy relationships are all about respecting and honoring boundaries, but when you’re in a close relationship with someone this might sometimes fall by the wayside. Today, make a special effort to honor your partner’s boundaries, big or small. Does it drive them crazy when you leave the dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher? Are they bothered when you show up late to places? Make that extra little effort to try respect their needs, even if it’s as simple as washing dishes and setting your watch back a few minutes. Honoring your partner’s boundaries now will prevent the little things from turning into bigger things later on — it will be a gift for both of you!

What are some ways you plan on celebrating the relationships in your life?


Special Thanks to the Avon Foundation

The Hotline is excited to announce its recent $200,000 gift from the Avon Foundation for Women in support of The Hotline’s efforts to answer calls from domestic violence victims, friends and family members. In 2012, over 53,000 calls for help to The Hotline went unanswered due to a lack of resources. The Avon Foundation’s generous contribution will support two part-time advocates as well as additional relief advocates to support The Hotline’s efforts in responding to calls for help from thousands of women, men, children and families seeking help annually.

Over the last 16 years, The National Domestic Violence Hotline has been proud to call the Avon Foundation for Women a true partner in making a difference in the lives of victims of domestic violence. With continued support from the Avon Foundation, together we can work to end this epidemic. Thank you to everyone at the Avon Foundation for Women for your continued contributions to helping domestic violence victims.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

A Letter To My Daughter About Fighting Back

Parents naturally want to shield their children from pain. But what happens when a parent’s own painful past can provide guidance to their child? Should that trauma be revisited? In today’s post, our talented guest writer, Sarah Tuttle-Singer, does just that, as she shares with her daughter the lessons she learned through leaving a terrifying relationship.

In this brave letter, Sarah opens up about a trusted partner turning violent. Sarah tells the story of her abuse, from the first, “This isn’t happening” to the final assurance to her daughter, “It didn’t happen again.”

We’re delighted to share this incredibly powerful piece with you. We hope you find courage in Sarah’s words and are reminded that your voice, and your story, matter.

This piece originally appeared on Kveller.com. For more personal essays from Jewish women and mothers, sign up for their free newsletter.

To My Darling Daughter,

I watch your eyes glow when the kids in preschool want to play with you. I see how it matters to you what they say and how they smile.

I watch your bottom lip tremble when someone hurts your feelings.

And I watch you on the playground–your face flushed, and your breath staggered as you chase the child that was mean to you. I know you, and I know you are blaming yourself for their bad behavior.

I know you are trying to get a second chance at friendships not worth having.

You are so much like me that it takes my breath away.

Please. Don’t be this way.

And this is why I am telling you this story–in bits and pieces. Starting now, and ending when you’re older and we can sit down together over a glass of wine and really talk.

Before I met your father, I lived with someone else.

Things were very, very good–we’d eat Chinese takeout together and watch The Simpsons. We’d go for walks at midnight, holding hands and watching our breath mingle in the piercing night. We’d share a lemon chicken hot dog with sauerkraut, and smoke a bowl, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

We shared an apartment with big windows facing the San Francisco Bay. If you stood on the arm of the couch, you could see the Bay Bridge. I hung Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” over our bed. We were going to get married. We were going to have children.

And then, two years later, something changed.

It wasn’t subtle. It wasn’t slow. It was an immediate about-face that started one night–although I can’t remember how. Something about money? Something about work?

But it happened. A cruelness slithered across his face, and took hold. And I was stunned to respond. I thought I could fix it. I thought I could fix him.

But it got worse. Because it always gets worse.

You ask me why I don’t like cats, my darling daughter. I used to love cats. I had two of them when I lived with this man. And when the cats got fleas, I watched him dunk their furry bodies into the bathtub, and when they hissed and clawed, terrified out of their soaked skins, he hurdled them against the wall. I bit my knuckles until they bled. I watched him take them away that night–still wet and shivering. I didn’t ask what happened to them.

(I know what happened to them.)

And. It got worse. This time in subtle degrees that infiltrated every moment, every breath.

“This isn’t happening,” a voice whispered in my head when he took my keys away and said I could only come home when he was home.

“This isn’t happening,” a voice whispered in my head when he made a list of the people he no longer wanted me to talk to, including close friends from childhood, and a family member.

“This isn’t happening,” a voice whispered in my head when he dangled the pearl necklace my parents had given me for my 21st birthday in front of me, and said, “You bitch, if you don’t get into a good law school, I am going to break this necklace or give it to the first hot girl I see.”

He’d grab my wrist. He’d pinch my arm. He’d shove me out of the way when I’d reach for him.

And then.

“This isn’t going to happen again,” I said out loud in an empty train car, hours after he kneeled over me, the palm of his hand pressing my windpipe until the light narrowed into a single exquisite spark.

And then.

“This isn’t going to happen again,” I said as I cringed when I lifted my sore arm, my fingers still numb from what he had done to me.

And I had nothing in my purse but the leftovers of the 20 dollars he gave me that previous Monday–just like he did every Monday before I’d leave to catch my train.

“Here’s your allowance,” he’d joke.

But it wasn’t funny. Because I was so dependent on him. (We were learning about how to literalize a metaphor in a comp lit class I was taking. And I remember thinking that it was too bad I couldn’t give my professor this example.)

And while I sat in that empty train car, I remembered a Monday morning a few months before, how I’d reached for my “allowance” to buy a train ticket, and how it’d slipped from my fingers and fallen down down down through the sewer grate. I had fallen hard to my knees, and tore a nail as I tried to pry the grate loose. Because it didn’t matter to me that below flowed a river of piss and shit. All that mattered was that I had lost my $20.00 and I had to get it back.

Or else.

“This isn’t going to happen again,” I said a little louder. To myself alone.

And it didn’t happen again. Because something broke inside me then, and I only returned to that apartment with the big windows with a friend to pick up my things when I knew he was at work.

And it didn’t happen again because I finally opened my mouth and started telling people what had happened.

And it didn’t happen again because saying these words out loud made it real–and I could see with brutal clarity that it was up to me to not let it happen.

But all that time wasted. The low-grade panic, punctuated by bursts of random violence. All that time wasted being prodded along down a path by someone I trusted. All that time wasted, wasting away.

Don’t be like this.

Don’t be dependent on how others treat you. You are strong, and brave, and wonderful, and kind.

Stand up for yourself.

Fight back if you have to.

I learned all of this by living it. And I don’t want you to learn like this, because while I was lucky enough to walk away with my two legs and my body intact, we shouldn’t tempt fate.

I didn’t plan on telling you this. But I see how similar we are–I see your softness, your kindness. I see how you forgive so easily–too easily–when someone is mean to you.

It’s wonderful to be kind. It’s wonderful to be compassionate. But within reason, darling daughter. Within reason.

So, be badass. Be brave. If someone is mean to you, then good riddance. And don’t wait for them to walk away. YOU walk away.

And for the rest of your life–whether I’m around or not–it’s my job to protect you by teaching you how to protect yourself.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

On January 31st, just over a week after he had been officially inducted into office for a second term, President Barack Obama made a direct address, endorsing February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

In his official address, Obama declared: “This month, we stand with those who have known the pain and isolation of an abusive relationship, and we recommit to ending the cycle of violence that affects too many of our sons and daughters.”

President Obama and his administration continue to make preventing abuse a priority, through initiatives such as Vice President Joe Biden’s 1 is 2 many, committing to reduce violence against young women.

According to the organization Loveisrespect, one in three teens in the US is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a partner. While teen dating violence can happen to anyone, the majority of the violence affects young women. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence- this is almost triple the national average.

As encouraged by President Obama, let February be a month for taking a stand against dating violence in whatever way you can. Talk to teachers at your local high school, bring up dating violence at the next school board meeting, and have a conversation with the teens in your life about healthy relationships. A great resource to share with them is the website loveisrespect, which has safety planning tips, relevant blog posts and more.

Want to know how to help a teen loved one experiencing abuse? Call our advocates today at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). Also, stay tuned into our blog for upcoming posts with resources and ways to empower your teen if they are experiencing dating violence.


Sportcaster James Brown and Law & Order SVU’s Mariska Hargitay On Bringing Men Into the Conversation

On January 31st, we participated in another important Twitter Chat with our friends from the Verizon Foundation, as a part of the Foundation’s Your Voice Counts campaign.

This Twitter Chat focused on the role that men play in preventing and ending domestic violence. With the Super Bowl then-only days away and recent tragedies in the NFL community still fresh in the minds of many, this was an incredibly timely conversation.

The topic was so popular that the event’s hashtag #YourVoiceCounts even trended nationally on Twitter. Verizon Foundation’s President Rose Stuckey Kirk, CBS Sportscaster James Brown, actress Mariska Hargitay and her organization Joyful Heart Foundation, A CALL TO MEN, and NO MORE all contributed to the success of the chat.

If you were involved in the Twit Chat, we’d love to hear your feedback. If not, we hope you join us next time.

1/31 Tweet up with Verizon Foundation @verizongiving, Sportscaster James Brown @JBsportscaster, NO MORE @NOMOREorg, LiveRespect @LiveRESPECT, Joyful Heart Foundation @TheJHF, and actress Mariska Hargitay @Mariska